The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 39

August 14, 2010

This is a book review from TAG 25 – October 1991. Obviously, at the time, I thought that my comments were worth recording and the book was sufficiently important to slag it mercilessly. Now I don’t understand what either the book or my review are about. It just seems like gibberish. See what you think


Football With Attitude by Steve RedheadPublished by Wordsmith, £7.99

Here are my credentials for reviewing this book:
a) I do not know what the word ‘postmodern’ means
b) I do not own any records by the Farm, the Happy Mondays or the Stone Roses
c) Bobble hats, ski hats, flared trousers, drainpipe trousers, baggy t-shirts, designer trainers, designer haircuts, drainpipe haircuts, baggy haircuts, bobble trainers, flared t-shirts, ski trousers, and drainpipe hats all bore the arse off me
d) I have never read The Face.

In TAG 3, Stuart Bathgate trashed Mr Redhead’s previous offering, ‘Sing When You’re Winning’. That particular book was sub-titled “The Last Football Book“. As if to fulfil his own prophecy Mr Redhead hasn’t bothered to write another one. He’s simply changed the names of a few chapter headings, altered the ending, incorporated a fanzine listing, and shat out the same crap again.

In his own fantasy world, in which football, pop music and “style” have all somehow become the same thing, he probably sees ‘Sing’ as a seven inch single while ‘Attitude’ is the twelve inch mega-mix. Fair enough, except there’s nothing on the book cover to warn punters that Attitude is a dub version of Sing.

Not only that, but in a breathtaking display of conceit, a large chunk of the latest book is devoted to reminding readers of just what a masterpiece Sing was. It was so good, in fact, that he’s written it again.

What is this book about? Search me. Apparently football history consists of three phases. Pre-modern, which existed prior to England’s world cup win in 1966. Modern, which paradoxically does not cover the present time, but which allegedly ended at some unspecified time in the 1980’s. And, hey, postmodern, which is the current phase. Presumably we’ll soon move on to the hyperpostmodern era.

As far as I understand it, Mr Redhead seeks to argue that throughout these phases, football, football players, and football spectators have changed, and that these changes have been related to other dynamic changes in society generally.

Wow, this is profound stuff. Apparently the bobble-hatted, drainpipe-trousered, cannabis-puffing, Stone Roses fan, with his WaIkman welded to his ears, has different attitudes and aspirations than his cloth-capped, forelock-tugging, pints of bitter-swilling great-grandfather. You don’t say !

Well the trouble is that he does say and he takes two books to say it. And not only that, but he takes his analysis to a ridiculous level by seeking to establish that “pop culture” (specifically pop music) is the single most important motive force behind the movement from “modern” to “postmodern” football. While it is no doubt true that the majority of modern (or should that be postmodern? – it’s all so confusing) football fans are steeped in pop culture, it seems to me that most can distinguish between a Happy Mondays album and a relegation battle without much difficulty.

Fashion and style are transient. Football does not undergo such dramatic transformations. The game is essentially much the same as it was 100 years ago. To me that is its strength. Why should football pay any attention to cloth-eared knob-heads with crap music taste whose idea of “style” is to dress in exactly the same way as their pals?

On the odd occasion when pop culture directly impinges on football it usually contrives to produce some abomination like the freak-out in the paint factory monstrosity of the Scotland/Celtic/Arsenal (fill in the rest yourself) away strips.

The only part of this book which is remotely plausible is its discussion of the emergence of fanzines, but even here it misses the point. Most editors, contributors, and readers of fanzines are in it for a bit of a laugh. It’s entertainment. It’s a mistake to see them as style warriors or as part of some politicised “movement”. And the old trick of printing photos of Pat Nevin and quoting him with approval won’t work with me. Perhaps it’s convenient for Redhead’s argument to quote Nevin as saying that he had “never felt anything negative about football fans”. Oh really? How about checking Not the View number 4 to see what Nevin thinks of Rangers fans.

Personally I find it quite nauseating the way in which the hip football press fawn over Nevin just because he can read and once bought a Joy Division record.

No review would be complete without unfairly lifting a quote completely out of context, so try this from page 103 – “lt has much in common with the process of ‘hyperreality’ described by cultural theorists as diverse as Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. BaudrilIard’s notion of hyperreality, the “anticipation of reality by images, the precession of images and media in relation to events” is pertinent to a football culture which is increasingly subject to global media attention”.

If you can figure out
a) What “It” is and
b) What “It” has to do with football,
then raid your piggy-bank and get down to your local bookshop with £7.99 straight away. This is the book for you.

Otherwise, it seems like a load of Baudrillards to me.

Steve Redhead is undoubtedly an intelligent person. He probably has something interesting to say about football, but he hasn’t said it yet. To write one bloody awful book may be regarded as a misfortune. To write the same bloody awful book twice looks like carelessness. Avoid.

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